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Why Indie?

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Since my debut novel, The Call of the Void, was released I have been inundated with questions about it and how it came to be. One of the more frequent queries is: why did I not go the route of traditional publishing? For those not familiar with what ‘traditional publishing’ means, it is the process most people imagine when they think of how one would get a novel from their imaginations to the bookshelves. You get an idea, you work on a novel, you look up publishers and wait for their submissions to open, you send your work out in accordance with the publishers’ various guidelines and you wait 6-8 weeks for feedback. For most aspiring authors, the buck stops there. Either nothing is heard, or a rejection letter is received. For the lucky few, though, their submission gets accepted, they may get paid an advance and the process of editing, cover design, layout etc. begins. About a year later they will be part of the rare elite who see their name lighting up the bookstore shelves. That is traditional publishing.

I went the route of independent publishing, or self-publishing. In other words, the entire process of getting the novel from a concept to a product and into the reader’s hands was either undertaken or managed by me, at my cost.

The advantages of traditional publishing are obvious. You get everything paid for and managed by a team of professionals who have done this for a living for decades. They have everything on hand to make your work a success. Breaking into traditional publishing, though, is extremely difficult. Every aspiring writer knows the famous tales such as how “Harry Potter” was rejected by 12 publishers before getting the nod. “Twilight” and “Lord of the Flies” were rejected 20 times apiece. Very few submitted works get accepted for publishing and few of those go on to become a commercial success. The guidelines for what gets accepted and what does not are often not clearly defined or completely arbitrary. To illustrate this point a fan recently sent a sample of a Nobel Prize winner from the 1980s to 19 publishers, 12 of which rejected the book outright while the others never replied. Also, unless you are a big-name author the publisher will still expect you, the author, to do most of the legwork in terms of promoting yourself. And, of course, the percentage of the sale which actually goes to the author is very low.

Self-publishing, on the other hand, can be done by anyone. Platforms such as Amazon and Kobo have helped the cause. The availability of an accessible platform has greatly increased the visibility of self-published authors and some are finding commercial success through a combination of great content, canny use of social media and marketing tools such as mailing lists.

The pros and cons aside, when it became apparent that The Call of the Void was going to be something I’d actually want people to read I had a choice to make. Initially I was bent on breaking into traditional publishing. I would make my submissions, bide my time and wait patiently for the inevitable slew of rejections before someone recognized my worth as a writer and accepted my draft. I thought that being accepted by a traditional publisher, preferably a big one, would be the only way I could consider myself a legitimate author. The South African market has a very limited capacity for the number of books published in a year, and first-time authors are generally put at the bottom of that pile. The barrier to entry is very high, and I have a product which does not fit into any of the most popular (commercially, that is) genres of fiction. Unless I was very lucky I would likely wait years, if it ever happened, before receiving an offer.

With the above in mind I began to look at the prospect of self-publishing in a new light. After a significant amount of research, it looked like self-publishing was the most viable way to get a share of a growing market and would allow me to get my work out there into the world without the long and pointless wait. I started to look at what was available on the bookshop shelves, and this also gave me some encouragement. Self-publishing may have a reputation for poor quality, but the big guys are by no means immune to mistakes and errors of judgement. Looking at some of those books I knew I could make something which at least looked the part. So, I made my decision.

 

Thankfully a team of seasoned readers could help me along the way with proofreading and editing, as well as thoughts and suggestions on the plot as it unfolded. A professional graphic designer was able to assist me and give me thoughts on my layout and design a colleague familiar with publishing was able to give me sage advice as to the ins and outs of printing. Armed with a lot of fresh knowledge and 67,833 freshly written and edited words I got it done. 

The Call of Retro Gaming

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So, it’s a pretty great time to be a gamer. The advent of gaming platforms such as Steam and Origin means unprecedented access to games for a fraction of the cost of what they did before. Now, I say this as a former naysayer to the whole online revolution. In the early days of Steam, I was horrified that the old days of trawling through bargain bins filled with games was over. I feared that never again would I be unwrapping the familiar shapes of game boxes at Christmas and birthdays. I gazed longingly at my treasured game manuals wondering if they would be the last I would collect before the impersonal PDF took over. Frankly, I thought the whole thing sucked. Big time.

Now, though, I’ve come to see the light and I am a converted man. Of course, changing times had something to do with it as well. In the early days, the average South African like myself would have sweated bullets over the data required to download games from the Steam store. Bandwidth was expensive and slow, so I am sure I was not the only naysayer. Now that things are more accessible, I have the world (Steam et al.) at my fingertips. And with all the specials, sales and free giveaways my entire Steam library cost me about what a physical copy of a premium game would have cost me 10 years ago. Lord Gaben is truly kind.

One of the other advantages of these platforms (and I’m getting to the point of what this rant is about, I promise), is that it gives independent developers access to a growing market and big developers an opportunity to make niche titles which would not have been commercially viable otherwise. This opens the door to something the gaming fraternity has been crying out for since time immemorial: REMAKES! There are so many old games out there which I adored growing up but I can’t play now because I either can’t get them to run on modern machines, can’t find them because they are abandonware or can’t bear to look at them because they are now hideous and make my eyes bleed.

A few years ago, I played the Special Edition of the Monkey Island series and it was amazing! They even had a key shortcut to change to the original graphics from 1990. It is easy to forget how terrible these games looked back in the day compared to how you remembered them, but this button really brought it home. Now, though, I can relive the memories and appreciate them all over again. Brilliant!

Next I got my hands on Day of the Tentacle, sometime last year. This was the LucasArts point-and-click at its finest. Hilarious and addictive I spent days playing this as a kid on my old 486. The remake was as perfect as the Monkey Island one had been. And, of course, this was the age of online walkthroughs so I could actually finish the game this time (I was so close to the end when I was 10 but just couldn’t figure it out).

Now, a week ago, I started playing the first game anyone ever gave me which came on a CD-ROM. I had finally installed a CD-ROM on my old PC and someone felt sorry for me having nothing to use it for and gave me this game, with its awesome little comic that came with it. The game was awesome, but it was so difficult (and wholly inappropriate for my age) that I didn’t get very far. Then the 20th Anniversary Edition came along and I got that on special just the other day. Time to boot that bad boy up again. I finished it last night and I thoroughly enjoyed it. An awesome story, great setting and voice acting by the likes of Tim Curry and Mark Hamill, what more could I ask? I wanted to get stuck into the second game straight away, but it doesn’t look like a remake is on the way so I will have to contemplate playing it in its original form. Luckily, thanks to platforms such as Steam and GoG (Good old Games) compatibility is guaranteed and clunky boxes won’t clatter up my house, so there will be no trace of just how many games I have.

 

If any developers are reading this, please contact me directly for my wishlist of games I want remastered ASAP. For the rest of you, have fun playing and don’t be afraid to revisit the oldies.

Freshly Printed Pages

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So as you all know by now, I’ve received my first batch of freshly printed copies of The Call of the Void. How do you describe the incredible feeling of opening a box full of a novel that you wrote? A mixed range of emotions came flooding through. Obviously, I was very chuffed with myself. This was mine, something I did (with plenty of help and encouragement, of course) and no one can ever take it away from me. It looked great as well. The print quality was excellent (a concern which had given me sleepless nights) and the cover design looked as great in print as it had on screen. My wife was just as excited.

 

Then the doubts crept in…

 

The creeping dread at the back of nearly every independent author’s mind is that you aren’t a real author unless published by one of the big names. When I approached my first beta-reader to ask him to read my book I jokingly said to him, “How would you like to read the worst book you’ve ever read?”. He agreed, of course, and he loved it. But the reality is that the criticism is coming and the reality of my statement will come crashing down. To someone, out there, my pride and joy will be the worst book they have ever read, and they won’t hesitate in telling me so. How will I handle that?

 

One of the advantages of independent publishing is the creative control. Everything from the cover design to the typesetting was my baby. While this is great fun, it is also a heavy responsibility. I’m not only being judged on the content and quality of the book’s writing, but on the layout, cover, blurb, typeface selection, font size, margin size, paper density, EVERYTHING reflects directly on me. And the inevitable typos which slipped through the editorial cracks. Of course, if everything goes well this is a feather in my cap. If it goes poorly, a soul destroying experience awaits.

 

Alright, so I don’t want it to sound like I am feeling sorry for myself or fishing for compliments, I just wanted you to know what was going through my head the first time I caught the whiff of those freshly printed pages. Opening that box will go down on my list of one of the most satisfying experiences in my life. Seeing my own debut novel in print is bucket list stuff. But the reality is certainly not all sunshine and roses. One thing is certain, though. More books are on the horizon. Watch this space.

A Cool Realisation

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I had an interesting realisation before my flight yesterday which puts into perspective not only the passage of time, but just how much living history an inanimate object can have.

 

As most of you know, I fly a modernised version of a very venerable old aircraft. The C47-TP is an upgraded version of the old C47/DC3, better known as the Dakota, or one of its other numerous nicknames: Skytrain, Vomit Comet, Dak etc. It is a legend of the skies, being often cited as one of the key factors in the Allied success in the Second World War and being recognised as probably the most important commercial aircraft ever built.

 

We who fly these aircraft are aware on a superficial level just how great a legacy this is. The feeling of great pride to be flying such a piece of history is often overshadowed, though, by the fact that we would love to fly a bigger, faster, more modern machine. Every now and then, though, something comes up which brings the weight of this long legacy crashing down and we must acknowledge just what an amazing, enduring piece of machinery this is.

 

Yesterday I was up to fly my first sortie of the year, a circuit training sortie in horrible winds. During our pre-flight briefing one of the crew, knowing my love for history, brought out an old air observers logbook from ages ago which he had found in a flea market. I paged through the yellow and musty book and was delighted to see that not only was it filled with Dakota entries, but that it contained entries for the very aircraft we were about to fly. It was dated November 1945. It detailed a four-day journey from Cairo to Swartkop in South Africa, over 20 hours of flying time.

 

Now, let that sink in a bit. The aircraft I was flying in 2018 was bringing troops home from the Second World War. Of course, the aircraft had probably been flying before that as well, but it was one thing to know it, and another to see it in black and white. When you consider all the hundreds of crew who have flown that aircraft between that day and this, you cannot help but be humbled at being part of such a long line of succession.

 

So, although I will still grumble about wanting a bigger, faster, more modern machine, there will always be instances like this which bring me back to earth.

The Call of the Void is Printing!

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It is finally happening! The Call of the Void has been sent to the printers and it will be ready next week!

 

Obviously, this is a dream come true for me, but it brings with it some serious challenges as well. A lot of people are asking about where and when they can purchase their copies and this is something I cannot answer just yet. If you know me, feel free to book a copy from me directly. Otherwise, standby for further details in the next week. The best place for this is via my newsletter, which you can sign up for here, or check out my social media pages.

 

The first print run is 100 copies, all of which will be signed and numbered. This is a very limited run and those copies will go very quickly, so make sure you act quickly as well.

 

To book a copy email orders@jaydenking.co.za and we’ll get in touch.

 

Thank you again for the fantastic support and I hope you will love the book as much as I have loved writing it.

A Look Back at 2017

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With 2018 now officially a thing, I thought I would do the cheesy thing and look back at the year that has passed. Every year I threaten to do this type of reflecting, but end up not doing it, pretty much like 90% of everything else I set up to do. This year, though, I have decided to go ahead and put it all out there, breaking it up into convenient bite-sized categories of the things I like most.

 

Personally, and professionally 2017 was one of the toughest years I can remember. It involved almost all the serious stressors one can encounter in life. I started off the year moving house for the second time in 4 years. The move was made all that much tougher by the fact that I had exams in February and was supposed to be in serious study mode, as was my wife. The move also involved a bit of a new career direction, moving away from flying as my primary job for the first time, and taking on a real management position for the first time. It was a massive jump in the deep end and I almost drowned many times. That is the overall picture, but let me break it down for you:


Studies

Those of you who know me will know that I had been studying for the past few years part-time through UNISA. My final essay for my Honours degree was due in the first week of January last year (crazy, I know!). That left me with zero holidays over a time when I was moving, but anyway, what could I do. I pushed through and submitted on time. Then exams for the rest of the subjects were all in the same week in February, which was, again, frustrating, but I got through that as well. Thankfully, a pass is a pass and I graduated proudly in June with a BA Hons in English Studies. It was tough, really tough, to get that done in just a year with a full-time job and all the travelling I had to do, but I am glad I pushed through. I contemplated continuing with my Masters immediately, but I wisely reconsidered and put it off indefinitely, for now.

Flying

Last year was a dismal year for flying. After transferring I was no longer technically at a squadron, although I did try and get my old rating back on the C47-TP. It was not really the success I hoped it would be, and I flew maybe 5 sorties the whole year. Challenges were everywhere, though, and it just was not on the cards. The flying I did get done, though, was encouraging. I will just have to get more done this year.

Gaming

It was an interesting year of gaming for me. Since I got a new laptop in 2016 nothing was off limits for me in the games department, which was great. This meant I could get my hands on Battlefield 1 after clocking up more than 1000 hours on Battlefield 4. Unfortunately, all my clanmates who had clocked up all those hours with me had busy years of their own, so I was left to team up with random strangers, which is not as much fun. Nevertheless, BF1 would end up providing some unexpected inspiration for my writing later on.

 

I did use my lack of Battlefield time to get to some of the single-player games I was putting on the backburner. Firstly, The Witcher 3, which was absolutely breath-taking. I tried to play the games in order but when The Witcher Enhanced Edition kept causing my PC to crash for some reason, I gave it up and just jumped to the latest game. Nearly everything about that game was amazing. Controls and combat were difficult to adjust to (I don’t think I ever figured out how to block or parry), but I managed. Visually the game was unsurpassed. That is, until I played the expansion, Blood and Wine, which made the base game look like Minecraft in comparison.

Having rediscovered my love for the story-rich single-player experience I tried out some new stuff. I discovered the atmospheric, story-rich games which were becoming so popular on Steam and tried some of them out. I really enjoyed Firewatch in particular, and Oxenfree as well. The feel and depth of the games’ storylines made them well worth the few hours it took to complete them. The Talos Principle was a surprising discovery. I don’t think I have ever been so engrossed by a puzzle game before, but that story was amazing. The prequel to Life is Strange, titled Before the Storm, was also brilliant.

 

Armed with my new laptop I also took another look at the Assassin’s Creed series. I reinstalled AC4: Black Flag and played it from start to finish, finding every available object and still craved more. That game is just so good! I am not a massive fan of the franchise, but that one is honestly a masterpiece. I quickly followed it up with AC: Rogue, which was enjoyable, and AC: Unity, which was alright. Rogue was good enough that I completed that 100% as well, but Unity was just a different game. I enjoyed the story and the scenery but there just weren’t those moments like I had in Black Flag and Rogue where I found myself just staring at the scenery. Instead, I ploughed through the story and just wanted to get it done, not even really bothering with side quests. I am currently busy with Syndicate, which is a big improvement on Unity, but still no Black Flag.

 

There are many others, maybe I’ll talk more about that in another post.

Reading

It was a strange year for reading. Strange in that I never read a single book for pleasure. Yes, I had to read a lot for my studies, especially Raymond E. Feist’s Magician, which was the primary focus of my Honours research essay (let me know if you are interested in giving that a read), but for my own enjoyment, not a single book. What I did do was experiment with audiobooks. I spent a lot of time driving, which was frustrating me as time wasted, so I though I would try use that time better. I got hold of the audiobooks of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and that was all I listened to whenever I was in the car on my own (my wife and son would not tolerate it when they were with). It was a great success. I am currently halfway through Book 10, and will keep it going until I finish, probably halfway through this year.

Writing

This past year was undoubtedly my biggest year for writing ever. Writing has become a big part of my day-to-day work as I have to generate most of the content for the museum exhibits we have been working on, and that amounts to tens of thousands of words, not to mention numerous magazine articles. My non-fiction military history book is also about 75% complete, and I hope to get that done in the first half of this year. Most importantly, though, I finally knuckled down and finished writing a novel. Thanks to NaNoWriMo (if you don’t know it, look it up, it is really worthwhile), I managed to get through 50,000 words in November which has grown to around 70,000. Once the editing and beta-reading is done it will be ready to be unleashed on the world.

 

If you don’t know yet it is titled The Call of the Void and is a post-apocalyptic story about a South African soldier in WW1 who wakes up on the battlefield and finds that everyone has disappeared. If you enjoy alternate history, post-apocalyptic fiction, military fiction or just a story that is a little different give it a read.

Conclusion

This year seems to be starting in a similarly chaotic fashion to last year, with another change in job description. I’ll be back into flying full-time again as I go back to the squadron, but I still have plenty of other tasks to tackle. I have a book to launch and promote and I have to build up my base as an author. There are challenges but also great opportunities ahead, and I look forward to tackling them head-on.

 

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Mailing List and Newsletter

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I’ve decided to start a mailing list and newsletter as a way to spread word far and wide as to whats happening in the world of my writing (it sounds horribly self-indulgent now that I’ve written it but there it is). If you are interested in any of the same things I am, namely reading, writing, gaming or aviation then consider signing up for it here or via the sign up button on my Facebook page.

 

I will also be offering a FREE gift in the form of the first part of my new novel The Call of the Void to whet your appetite. The newsletter, along with this blog, will be the first port of call for any announcements regarding upcoming works. I’ll also be posting special offers or giveaways there first.

 

Thanks again for reading and I look forward to the next step!

 

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The Call of the Void – Coming Soon!

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Since I was a young lad I wanted to be an author. I wrote short stories and novellas (and dreadful poetry) for years in high school, and then more or less threw in the towel when I joined the military. I still wanted to write but fear made me want to give up almost as soon as I started. Fear and the pessimistic outlook that I would most likely never see my project through. I decided it was because I did not have the theoretical background that ‘real’ writers had. So I studied part time, got a degree in Creative Writing, then a post graduate in English Studies, and the excuses were up.

 

In November I came across a project called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which is an initiative to encourage aspiring authors to get writing. The aim is to begin writing at the beginning of November and complete 50,000 words by the end of the month. I only discovered this whole thing somewhere around the 4th, so I was already late to the game. I knew that something like this was the kick up the butt I needed to finish something. Yes, I was a late starter, so I knew I had to graft. I also knew that failing in this would be a psychological blow from which my confidence as a writer would never recover. So I started.

 

But what to write? I had a few projects in the back of my mind, story line concepts that I would ‘get around to one day’, but none of them excited me right now. I would have to start fresh. I have really been enjoying alternate history lately, so I tossed around a few ideas, looked into the market a bit to try find a niche which had not been overdone, and found it: a post-apocalyptic story set in the First World War. The story of one man who wakes up and finds that everyone else is either dead or disappeared. It had challenges, but it interested me. It also gave me a chance to use my own skills and knowledge, as a military pilot and historian, to give the story unique insight. After a few days writing I was hooked and couldn’t stop. I hit my 50,000 word goal and kept writing.

 

Now, I knew that there was no ways I was going through all this effort to not publish it, especially as positive feedback from my first draft beta readers began to come in. After a lot of thinking and talking to other people writing in similar genres I decided self-publication under my own imprint was the best option. The genre was just not well enough represented where I’m from to consider any other option. The more I look into it, though, the happier I am with my decision. I am looking forward to my journey as an indie-author, starting with this novel.

 

And, so, I am proud to announce my first novel: The Call of the Void – a post-apocalyptic novel of the Great War. It is the story of one man’s attempt to find himself and his home after the ‘war to end all wars’ lived up to its name. It will be available for pre-order soon on Amazon and will be released as an e-book and print book via Amazon KDP. I will also be doing a limited print run of paperbacks, so contact me if you are interested in getting your hands on one of those.

 

Thank you for being part of this journey with me!